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Durham commissioners vote in favor of controversial development

Posted August 9, 2010
Updated August 10, 2010

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— The Durham Board of County Commissioners on Monday evening approved a proposed development after nearly two hours of heated discussion.

The 167-acre 751 South project runs along N.C. Highway 751 near the Durham-Chatham county line. Plans call for it to include 1,300 homes and up to 600,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

The battle over the project has gone on for more than two years. Developers and supporters say it would bring jobs to the area, expand the county's tax base and allow for two new schools to be built.

Commissioner Joe Bowser said anything that will bring jobs deserves a shot.

"This project will help some unemployed in this community," he said.

Opponents of the development fear it would harm nearby Jordan Lake and the rural landscape.

"The citizens will have to pay for the consequences of poorly planned development in close proximity of already impaired Jordan Lake. Passing this development is yet another storm water IOU from the citizens of Durham," Durham resident Tina Pearson told the commissioners.

Developers have said the project would be built a mile away from the lake, and they are doing all they can to reduce pollution, such as building more parking decks and fewer parking lots to reduce runoff into the watershed.

Commissioner Becky Heron voted against the project, saying she too is concerned about the potential for polluting Jordan Lake.

"There is no way I can support 751. With all the shenanigans that have gone on, I can't trust them (the developers)," Heron said.

751 South sparks heated debate among commissioners 751 South sparks heated debate among commissioners

Commissioner Ellen Reckow was the only other commissioner to vote against the project.

"The development is inappropriate and too intense for that location," she said.

Commissioner Brenda Howerton disagreed and said the project will help support the area economy.

"There have been a lot of people that have approved and endorsed this project," Howerton said. "We have to take care of the water and soil and all of that, but we have to take care of the people. With the economy the way it is, we have got a lot of people hurting."

A protest petition signed by area residents requiring Southern Durham Development to require votes from four of five commissioners for a required zoning change for the project was ruled invalid Monday. This cleared the way for the final vote on the development.

After the project received a green light, Southern Durham Development issued a statement.

"Our development has met every regulatory and other legal standard throughout the nearly two years already invested in planning 751 South. We have made every effort to respond to each substantive suggestion offered by our opponents," the statement read.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • wv gal Aug 12, 2010

    The Durham Board of County Commissioners need to read the August Issue of Wildlife North Carolina. It has a article in it reference the quality of water at Jordan Lake.

  • blahz Aug 10, 2010

    and it makes so much sense to put more sprawl south of Southpoint, let's clog up I-40 and Fayetteville Street some more!

    Gary: The people opposed to this development are mainly white, wealthy and employed.

    where does your information come from? maybe those are the ones who are speaking up but not the entire picture.. alot of people just don't care any more.. politics is politics and corporations are now people.. speaking up does what? apparently NOTHING goes from Obama all the way down to Durham County... so just because a FEW speak up don't paint the picture one color

  • garychapelhill Aug 10, 2010

    ...and just ask anyone who doesn't have one, a job is a job is a job.

  • garychapelhill Aug 10, 2010

    my commentary isn't about the developers, but the behavior of those in opposition.

  • blahz Aug 10, 2010

    "affordable housing" near Jordan Lake? laughable...

    it will bring jobs to minimum wage day laborers for a few years

    Newsflash: developers aren't in it for people, the poor or the foolish affluents

  • garychapelhill Aug 10, 2010

    "Did I miss something?"

    um, just the whole point. The people opposed to this development are mainly white, wealthy and employed. They are, without reason, and without evidence, claiming that the 3 members of the Board (all African American)who voted for the development are corrupt and should be booted from office. Normally any opposition to local government is painted by these very people as racism. The reason you don't hear those accusations now is because they are the ones in opposition. And in fact, that they nominally oppose this development because of issues like affordable housing and transportation when the real issue for them is environmental concerns is indeed racially insensitive. It is par for the course for many of them who stand on the backs of people of color to get what they want, using them as a means for their own political ends. All the while accusing everyone else of being racially intolerant.

  • withnailharrison Aug 10, 2010

    I've been following this story pretty closely for 2 years, and one thing I haven't seen a lot of are accusations of racism. Granted, there are many other heated facets being bandied about back and forth (for good reason), but racism doesn't really hasn't been a part of it - it's a lot more about the subversion of a public process. Did I miss something?

  • no contest Aug 10, 2010

    garychapelhill - Very well said. There are people in the area that WANT to work and have mouths to feed. They don't want to sit back and get by with a small handout. They want to be productive regardless of what the Durham elitists think. I believe that the accusations of racism that some use as an offense will get worn out like a used tire and blow up in their faces eventually.

  • Boogalooboy Aug 10, 2010

    why does Gary and Chapel Hill not mesh... more tree huggers than you can shake a Wal-Mart at.

  • slivingston Aug 10, 2010

    In 2008, Barack Obama was running for President. Thousands of African-Americans who had never voted came out. The Durham Committee on Black Affairs told all the ignorant new voters to vote for Joe Bowser, a complete boob, and they did. Durham is now stuck with Bowser until 2012, when Obama will be running again.